TLDR: The cause area of mental health is growing in popularity in the EA movement but it is also often limited by funding. As such, it seemed like a uniquely promising area to start a funding circle. This circle is roughly modeled on Farmed Animal Funders, and aims to connect funders to support projects in the space. If you would like to apply for funding or join the circle, you can connect via our website.
Why the area of mental health?
Mental health disorders are an important problem in the world. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, mental disorders were the seventh leading cause of health burdens in the world in 2019; causing about 5% of all disability adjusted life years, and 14% of years of life lived with a disability.
According to the WHO, mental health is the most neglected health issue and should urgently receive more global investment. The Happier Lives Institute also argues that mental health disorders are particularly neglected, especially considering that they have some of the greatest impact on life satisfaction. Additionally, some initial estimates suggest a high cost-effectiveness and there seems to be shovel-ready charities with important gaps that we can fill.
What is a funding circle?
A funding circle is a collaboration between a number of funders who typically target a certain cause area. For example, Farmed Animal Funders (FAF) is a group of funders who are all keen to support the end of factory farming. Many of these funders have varying interests and they range fairly dramatically in size. FAF has a couple of staff who help the members of the network research and find opportunities, as well as generally coordinate between them. This reduces the risk of double-funding, or missing promising opportunities. Another example is Big Bang Philanthropy.
Funding circles can be a powerful way to leverage and coordinate multiple funders that share a common interest. Often a cause area will have a number of funders; but between closed application rounds, unclear standards, and disjointed networks, the funding is not organized as well as it could be. Having different funder views is really important for a good funding ecosystem, but a funding circle has the added, massive benefit of having a centralized point of contact. This means organizations can apply as if applying to a single large funder, but gain exposure to several potential funders. The structure also means that if one member of the network discovers a promising opportunity, but it falls outside of their scope, communication channels are open and ready for them to pass the project on to a grantmaker who is a better fit.
Testing the circle
If this funding circle works well, there may be similar groups set up in the future for other cause areas.
I'm really delighted to see this project come to fruition. Here are the three best resources on mental health philanthropy that I've come across so far:
World Mental Health Report: A briefing for philanthropic funders (Prospira Global)
Funding the future of mental health: The potential of next generation philanthropists to catalyse action (United for Global Mental Health)
Focus on mental health philanthropy (Alliance)
Sounds really exciting. Could you give more detail on what kind of projects or work is eligible or likely to be successful for funding? It wasn't clear to me from the website.
Right now the door is pretty open. The projects we would consider are ones that can make a case for being highly impactful relative to other options in the space. I suspect projects with large funding gaps would be less of a good fit (e.g., people seeking over $500k).
Wow, this is amazing! I really appreciate your post. I started the day with a 30 minute talk on Clubhouse on the importance of investing in one's mental health and well-being. A lot more importantly, I have observed individuals around me struggle with their mental-health and addiction issues. I have also had my own struggles and evidenced-based therapy (and self-care in general) has had such a profound impact on my life. I could not imagine an alternative.
Big opportunity here: The world is quite dark and as it relates to enabling further avenues for accessible mental health. In a quality sense of the word imaginable and with a core focus on ethics. Particularly as it relates to protecting the rights and the privacy of the individual. Because mental-health related issues can be complex.
I've looked into this space a bit. (Sample via my page on Youtube). I'd love to work with your team in the future.
To really solve mental-health, we have to also solve (in random order) the associated areas that contribute to an individuals well-being. In a Maslow's hierarchy of needs sense. But also in a manner that doesn't wreck our ecosystems that are already struggling.
If there are any opportunities for collaborating atm, then please let me know. Cheers!
Very excited to read this and to see what comes of it!